Lana Del Rey’s “A&W” Lyrics Meaning
“A&W”, which officially hit the marketplace of 14 February 2023 (i.e. Valentine’s Day), is Lana Del Rey’s first release of the year 2023 and the second single from her album, “Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd”.
This track was first teased, via Instagram, by its co-author and co-producer, Jack Antonoff, a couple of months prior to its release. Antonoff can be considered an A list American musician as far as composing hit songs is concerned, especially in terms of his working relationship with Taylor Swift. He is also a regular collaborator of Del Rey, who likewise gets writing and production credit for “A&W”.
WHAT IS “A&W”?
Those familiar with 20th century American culture know that, as traditionally understood, A&W is a brand of root beer. This beverage has been around for over 100 years now, though you don’t hear much about it these days. But circa the late 20th century, it was never as popular as Coca-Cola or Pepsi but did have the market on lock as far as known root beers were concerned.
However, the lyrics of this song are not about soft drinks. Instead, as understood in context, “A&W”, ignoring the ampersand in between the two letters, actually stands for “American Whore”.
We’ve worked on enough Lana Del Rey songs to know that oftentimes, her lyrics are painfully indirect, and so it can be deemed with the first verse of this track. However, it has been ascertained that what the songstress is alluding to is some type of beef or ill feelings she has towards her mother.
The genesis of whatever negativity may exist between the two of them has yet to be conclusively made public. But the implication, given these once again roundabout lyrics, is that maybe Lana’s mom was the type who didn’t consider Del Rey good enough during Del Rey’s formative years, i.e. her youth.
Before venturing off into the rest of the song, it can be concluded of course that if a person feels his or her own mother doesn’t like them, then said individual is likely to grow up with negative self-esteem issues.
CHORUS OF “A&W”
The chorus that eventually follows, unlike the first verse, gets straight to the point. Therein, it is revealed that the reason the vocalist is referring to herself as “an American whore” is because, well first of all, Lana is in fact American. But more to the matter at hand, it’s as if now she has come to accept a lifestyle whereas casual sex has become the norm. Or as she puts it, “it’s not about having someone to love (her) anymore”.
So what’s being implied basically is that she has run out of patience as far as securing a husband, i.e. a man who actually loves her, is concerned. Despite not being married, the vocalist still has sexual needs to be fulfilled.
“Call him up, come into my bedroom
Ended up we f–k on the hotel floor
It’s not about having someone to love me anymorе
This is the experiеnce of being an American wh–e”
The fact that she refers to herself as a “whore” in the process does entail that maybe she has misgivings about adopting such a modus operandi, i.e. having those needs fulfilled with men who she has no intention of settling down with. Also, all things considered, the “American” adjective would probably imply such a way of life has become accepted or normalized within the context of said society.
VERSES 2 & 3 OF “A&W”
The idea of the vocalist having issues with the current nature of her romantic life is verified in the second verse. The way the lyrics read in this passage are as if she views herself as “a princess”. Owing to this, she is wondering why she hasn’t scored her Prince Charming yet, if you will.
The first half of the third verse, meanwhile, is a lot deeper. And what it looks like is being insinuated is that Lana was raped and perhaps became more promiscuous as a result, i.e. that victimization being a factor, on top of the low self-esteem implied earlier, which contributed to her having becoming a “whore”.
The second half of the third verse is more esoteric. But in part, the songstress seems to be celebrating the fact that she’s still considered to be sexually attractive, despite being in her thirties.
PART II: JIMMY
To note, this song is over seven minutes in length in its entirety and is therefore split into two parts. Part I is the “American Whore” segment, and Part II is titled “Jimmy”.
Herein, Lana is apparently referring to her romance with a guy by that name. And consistent with the rest of the track, their romance is depicted as one which is less than ideal. For instance, Jimmy is portrayed as pretty much using the vocalist as a f–k dummy, and even then only ‘loving her’ at times “when he wants to get high”.
The further implication is that their relationship is more than just a passing thing, i.e. Jimmy being someone whom Lana actually has feelings for and therefore even communicates with his mother.
To reiterate, what is ultimately being relayed is that Jimmy has his issues when it comes to romancing Lana properly, i.e. treating her like a respectable woman. And the fact that she is willing to endure such treatment is further indicative of the vocalist’s low self-esteem when it comes to the field of romance, i.e. Del Rey being willing to tolerate someone who, under farrier circumstances (i.e. if proper suitors were available) she probably wouldn’t.
To note, it does not appear that “Jimmy” is the real name of a person Lana is dealing with (though he is, theoretically, a recurring character in her songs). Rather, this half of the track relies heavily on an interpolation of the 1959 classic “Shimmy Shimmy Ko-Ko Bop” by Little Anthony and the Imperials. And as you can see, “Jimmy” rhymes with “shimmy”.
Lana Del Rey is uber-successful in the eyes of the world. However, as of the dropping of this track she is on the verge of turning 38 years old, yet the songstress has never been married. And whereas we’re not judging her, that reality is known as one which commonly gets affected women bent out of shape, i.e. aging without a spouse.
On top of that, Del Rey is a musical artist in the truest sense of the word, in that her lyricism tends to be distinctly different from any other songwriter we regularly come across. And when you combine those two factors – Lana approaching middle age without a husband and her unconventional and indirect yet blunt lyricism – what you get is a song like A&W.
Yes, the vocalist may be in a position where she does not lack romantic/sexual interests, and by the looks of things, Del Rey has accordingly dated quite a few guys throughout the years. But reading in between the lines here, she does not consider this an ideal way of living.
First of all, the vocalist was prompted to become so as a result of troubling aspects from her past. And secondly, in the process of being an “American whore” she has to deal with the likes of “Jimmy”, who reads like the type of man no woman would logically want to marry.